An inquiry into use of central government funds under the Indira Awaas Yojna (IAY) for housing the poor has confirmed bungling of Rs 35.1 lakh during the 2009-10 fiscal in Sihari village of Gurdaspur district's Dera Baba Nanak, the segment represented by former Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) minister Sucha Singh Langah during the 2007-12 regime.
Langah's close aide and the sarpanch of Sihari, Varinder Singh, has been indicted in the inquiry report by additional deputy commissioner (general) (ADC-G) Baljeet Singh. The report also mentions that the then ADC (development) bypassed the block development and panchayats office (BDPO) to credit the money -- meant for 78 below poverty line (BPL) families -- directly into the personal bank account of the sarpanch. As per rules, the funds are to be given into the bank accounts of the intended beneficiaries.
The district administration is now likely to lodge a first information report (FIR) with the police, as the report also calls for recovery of the money. However, the inquiry officer further remains silent on the role of bureaucrats, not even naming the then ADC (D) who handed the money to the sarpanch.
As for Langah, though the inquiry has no express mention of his name, the since-defeated MLA, who remains the SAD's halqa (constituency) in-charge for Dera Baba Nanak, is considered a patron of the indicted sarpanch.
Langah remains under fire for allegedly taking grants in the name of his family-run trust for a non-existent college in Kalanaur block of Gurdaspur district and also arbitrarily distributing Rs 37 lakh from his discretionary funds for medical treatment of 500 people who were said to be ill in the months before the assembly elections held in January. The state government has already marked an inquiry into the issuance of grants to the Langah family's college.
The probe report has summarised that Rs 35.1 lakh were credited into the sarpanch's account, but inspection found that only 29 houses had been constructed and 16 beneficiaries had been given money to purchase houses, which is also against the IAY rules. The sarpanch failed to show disbursal of houses for another 33 intended beneficiaries, even as only Rs 2.42 lakh remained in his bank account. "Thus, funds have been embezzled and suitable action is recommended," says the report submitted to DC Abhinav Trikha, who said he would comment only after a thorough read.
The probe had been launched on the directions of the vigilance and monitoring committee chaired by Congress MP from Gurdaspur, Partap Singh Bajwa, in October. A formal complaint to the financial commissioner (rural development) had been filed by Congress MLA Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who had defeated Langah in the January 2012 assembly polls from Dera Baba Nanak.
The sarpanch had told the probe officer that the money was in his account since the panchayat had authorised him for purchase of construction material. However, he failed to prove that all houses had been built as claimed.
As the report came in, the Congress was perturbed by the virtual clean chit to officials. "This is the tip of the iceberg. The entire use of funds during Langah's term needs to be probed. Top officials are hand in glove with him; it's impossible for a sarpanch to implement such a devious plan alone," said MLA Randhawa.